Reinventing Lincoln a hard sell for Ford

Logo for the Lincoln automaker.

TEXT OF STORY

BILL RADKE: There's a sort of pile up of Town Cars and Navigator SUVs today at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. More than a thousand Lincoln dealers have been summoned to hear the company's plan for reviving the luxury brand. Ford has sold off its other upscale lines, like Jaguar. It's shutting down Mercury. Now Ford wants to reinvent Lincoln.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports that could be a tough sell.


ALISA ROTH: You know it's a bad sign when even the salesman can't talk up a car. Martin Borenstein runs a Lincoln Mercury dealership near New York City. He says people who want luxury cars don't want Lincolns.

MARTIN BORENSTEIN: They're people who say I have a BMW, I have a Lexus. You know, they don't have a Lincoln. And when you say you have a Lincoln it's like you didn't make it yet.

That hasn't always been the case. Ten years ago, Lincoln was the best-selling luxury brand in the country. By last year, it had dropped to number eight, though. Lexus is on the top these days.

Martin Gubbels has a Ford and Lincoln dealership in Wyoming. He says Lincolns have limited appeal.

MARTIN GUBBELS: I don't ever remember selling a Lincoln to anybody under the age of 45.

Ford is going after a younger crowd with a new ad campaign that emphasizes Lincoln's cool technology. The tagline is "smarter than luxury." But the company also has to convince buyers that Lincolns really are different from their Ford cousins. that they're more than just a Taurus in a tailored suit.

Ivan Drury is an analyst at Edmunds.com, the car-buying site.

IVAN DRURY: The argument always comes through well, why am I paying so much extra for this vehicle, which is 95-90 percent similar to the cheaper version.

Lincoln is overhauling its whole lineup, which dealers hope will make the cars easier to sell.

But Lincoln's face lift is going to cost the dealers: Ford is reportedly planning to shut down 200 dealerships. And the survivors will have to make big investments so their showrooms are as luxurious as the cars.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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